Another week and another UFC card, as we get a week reprieve from major MMA cards and get to reflect upon the event that was a bit more fully. UFC 167 was a lot of things but it was no doubt controversial. Dave Meltzer and I were the only ones to score the fight for GSP, as well, and thus there’s been a ton of controversy regarding the split decision verdict. Heck, I called it (somewhat) before the event began in a Twitter conversation with MMA Report’s Jason Floyd.
Now it’s time to play Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, figuring out who the most intriguing winners (and losers) from this card will fight next. At this point I don’t know what’ll happen with GSP, no one does, and thus he’s out of the equation.
Rashad Evans vs. Rafael Cavalcante – Rashad looked like the #2 light heavyweight in the world, the one who starched dudes in route to a second UFC title shot. Evans wants another shot at UFC gold before he retired and the problem now is that a ton of contenders all have matchups. Daniel Cormier isn’t going to be in this spot, either, as they don’t want to ruin a new contender for an old one. At this point it kind of looks like they’ll give him a sacrificial lamb at this point and Feijao could be it. They’re not going to give him Glover Teixiera, either, as he’s going to get a title shot once Jon Jones has recovered from the war with Alexander Gustafsson.
Robbie Lawler vs. the winner of Carlos Condit/Mike Brown – The gods of violence & MMA would rejoice if we got this matchup. No matter which combination you have it’d be two guys who regularly dot the “All Violence” team on Sherdog. If GSP retires or abdicates the belt then you could make this five rounds for the new championship, throw it on Fox and get a great rating for violence incarnate.
Ali Bagautinov vs. John Lineker – The Dagestan just beat a Top 10 and right now should be one win away from a title shot. Lineker is one win away from a title shot, that one win being one in which he can actually make weight. Give Lineker a couple months to get his diet squared away and he’ll be ready for a fight. Bagautinov would make for a great fight, as well, as Lineker’s reckless style coupled with Ali’s counter style would be a great style matchup.
Tyron Woodley vs. Sergio Moraes – Woodley lamped Koscheck but let’s be honest. Koscheck is in the final throes of his Jon Fitch moments. Koscheck is on his way down and out, most likely done as a contender in any capacity, but he’s still a name. Woodley has two big lampings in his UFC stint and looks to be a contender in the making. But he needs to be developed, still, and Moraes is a TUF: Brazil prospect on the rise as well. Jason High could be in this slot, too, as could Pascal Krauss.
Donald Cerrone vs. the winner of Mac Danzig/Joe Lauzon – Cerrone has talked of going to 145 but having met him I find it hard to believe he could make it. He cuts a ton of weight to make lightweight and I don’t see how he does it. I think he stays at lightweight and I think the UFC lets him rise again slowly. The winner of Danzig/Lauzon would make for a nice style matchup with him.
Ed Herman vs. Neil Magny – Herman’s been around forever and has a ton of fights but his ceiling was found a while ago. He’s not elite, never will be, and won’t ever reach the Top 10 either. He’s a fringe guy, a slightly poor, ginger version of what Stephan Bonner was. He still has some use but Herman won’t be a guy who puts together anything but a couple wins in a row against “meh” level competition. Magny is a prospect who people genuinely like but might not last longer than one more fight in the UFC. Herman beats guys like this and it makes sense.
Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva – This is the easiest one to predict because Sonnen already is lined up to fight “The Axe Murderer” after doing a season of “TUF: Brazil.” It’ll be at 205 and it’ll be Sonnen’s last stand at the weight class. He’s very good at light heavyweight but he’s not elite at this point. He’s an elite middleweight and we found this out years ago, when he was a pedestrian LHW who turned into an amazing MW. That culminated in a title shot against Anderson Silva and the rest is history.
After the bigger Silva, for lack of a better word, Sonnen is going back to 185. It’s a better weight and this is just perfunctory at this moment. Look for him to get a Top 10 MW, probably someone closer to 10, in his move back there. The problem is we won’t know the rankings once this is over, as Sonnen will most likely be fighting next sometime in the summer of 2014. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got someone like Tim Kennedy or Luke Rockhold, maybe Costa Philippou. Sonnen’s style lends to potentially one more run at a title and he’s only 2-3 wins away from getting it, potentially.
Johny Hendricks vs. the loser of Carlos Condit/Matt Brown – Hendricks won on most people’s scorecards and I can make a case for him winning the fight. I watched it one more time and it was insanely close … again. I can see it either way. This wasn’t a travesty or the worst decision in the history of decisions; it was a close decision, nothing more. And Hendricks wound up on the wrong side of it. Whether or not he deserved to be is up for debate but the judges scored it for GSP and we can’t change that now.
Hendricks is at a minimum is the 2nd best welterweight in the world. He arguably won the fight against GSP. The problem is that now he’s stuck in an odd sort of limbo. GSP is out of the market, as an immediate rematch would make sense in this case, and thus he’s in a weird place. You can’t throw him into a new title matchup with someone new because he lost to the man who’s still the champion. And Hendricks can’t be shunted into a new title fight without it being against Georges St. Pierre. Thus the loser of Condit/Brown will be a fun, violent fight. If GSP doesn’t take any time off look for an immediate rematch for Hendricks, as there’s money to be made and if Anderson Silva gets a rematch after being starched then GSP gets one as well. That’ll be the key; if GSP retires permanently then Hendricks either gets the first shot at the new champ after a win or thrust into a title fight.
Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Clements – Koscheck intimated to Dana White that he was retiring after the Woodley fight and I’m not sure if that’ll be the final call. Guys get goofy after KO losses and I don’t think Kos retires on that loss. I think he gets one more shot in the UFC but it won’t be anyone of note. Clements is on a two fight losing streak and he’s gone with another loss. He’d be a perfect matchup for Koscheck; he’s a great striker with takedown defense that screams double leg. Koscheck isn’t getting released because the UFC doesn’t do that to guys from the first season of TUF and guys who’ve been loyal for them. Koscheck meets both those criteria.
Look at the precedent: Dan Hardy got progressively lower on the card in terms of fights and fighter quality as he kept losing until he got Duane Ludwig. Clements is that final fight before Koscheck gets cut. If he can’t beat someone like Clements, who’s a very nice guy but never going to be a fighter of note in the UFC, then he shouldn’t be in the UFC and our dream of Askren/Koscheck in the World Series of Fighting will be closer to reality.
Rory McDonald vs. Jake Shields – McDonald lost a close fight, mainly because he was unwilling to engage unless it was a guaranteed success. That’s what gave Lawler his success; McDonald is so used to guys being paralyzed by his jab and boxing that Lawler’s ruthless and reckless attack stifled him. He’s used to being so much better at boxing that his jab, used to setting up his takedowns, that when someone is willing to take a jab to land something big he freezes. McDonald hasn’t improved a lot since the BJ Penn fight. The young prodigy who shot up the ranks is starting to peak out as a guy who won’t win a title.
McDonald was successful early because he pressed the action and imposed his will; the last two fights he hasn’t done that. He’s still a Top 5 fighter in the division but this was a bad loss. He looked awful and profoundly not the future of the division. And unfortunately he won’t get someone who’ll be easy pickings because he’s elite. Shields makes a ton of sense right now. Thiago Alves would be a perfect fit but he’s had so many injuries that in four months it’ll mark two years since he last fought.
Tags: Five for Fighting, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 167